Two new sets of rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency look to accelerate fleet and consumer adoption of zero-emission vehicles. While the first set of rules focuses on light- and medium-duty vehicles, the second set unveiled by the Biden administration on April 12 is the much-anticipated Phase 3 of the federal Greenhouse Gas Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles.
The EPA’s Phase 3 GHG standards for heavy equipment and multipollutant standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles are the final two parts of the EPA’s three-step Clean Trucks Plan, first announced in 2021. The heavy-duty standards go beyond the Phase 2 GHG standards finalized in 2016 for model year 2027 trucks.
American Trucking Associations noted the industry supports a decarbonized future, but a statement from Chris Spear, president and CEO of ATA, stressed the complexity of quickly transforming the U.S. freight economy and displeasure with reopening GHG Phase 2 regulations.See also: Biden administration OKs California waivers to mandate electric trucks
“While these standards are directed at manufacturers, it is fleets—the customers and end-users of the equipment—who will ultimately determine their level of success,” Spear said on April 12. “The Phase 3 standards must take into account the complex challenges and operating conditions facing motor carriers as we manage the transition to a zero-emission future while simultaneously moving more than 72% of the economy’s freight.”
The proposed standards are also projected to accelerate America’s transition to electric vehicles. Depending on the compliance pathways manufacturers select to meet the standards, EPA projects that EVs could account for 67% of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46% of new medium-duty vehicle sales in less than 10 years.
The proposed MY 2032 light-duty standards are projected to result in a 56% reduction in fleet average greenhouse gas emissions target levels compared to the existing MY 2026 standards. The proposed MY 2032 medium-duty vehicle standards would result in a 44% reduction compared to MY 2026 standards.
New heavy-duty truck standards
Spear said that ATA is still reviewing the latest EPA proposal and “will remain engaged in the regulatory process to ensure the agency arrives at a regulation that has realistic equipment adoption timelines, is technology feasible, and will not cause additional inflationary pressures if finalized.”
The set of proposed standards aimed at large trucks, the “Greenhouse Gas Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles—Phase 3,” would apply to heavy-duty vocational vehicles. These include delivery trucks, refuse hauler, dump trucks, public utility trucks, transit, shuttle, school buses and trucks typically used to haul freight.
These new, stronger standards are designed to bolster the criteria pollutant standards for MY 2027 and beyond heavy-duty vehicles that EPA finalized in December 2022 and represent the third phase of EPA’s Clean Trucks Plan. These would surpass what was laid out in 2016’s GHG Phase 2.See also: EPA’s new HD emissions rules push manufacturers and fleets to plan ahead
“We are extremely disappointed that EPA has chosen to reopen the Phase 2 regulation, which had been set for years,” ATA’s Spear said. “To make the plans and investments necessary for a successful transition, our industry needs regulatory certainty—not whimsical changes of mind from year to year.”
These Phase 3 GHG standards, according to the EPA, “maintain the flexible structure that EPA previously designed through a robust stakeholder engagement process to reflect the diverse nature of the heavy-duty industry.”
“Our industry has always found ways to partner with EPA on regulations that are tough but achievable,” Spear added. “If EPA wants us to remain a willing participant, their going back and changing what was already agreed upon is not how to do it.”
The heavy-duty proposal uses performance-based standards that enable manufacturers to achieve compliance efficiently based on the composition of fleets.
The projected net benefits of the heavy-duty proposal range from $180 billion to $320 billion, according to EPA. The proposal is projected to avoid 1.8 billion tons of CO2 through 2055, equivalent to eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the entire current U.S. transportation sector for an entire year, and deliver additional health benefits by reducing other pollutants from these vehicles.
The White House noted that the standards would result in improved air quality nationwide, and those who live near major roadways and are disproportionately exposed to vehicle pollution and heavy-duty activity, which often includes low-income populations and communities of color, would benefit most directly.
New light and medium vehicle standards
While most internal combustion engine-powered light- and medium-duty vehicles have lower emissions than heavy-duty trucks—there are a lot more of them on the roads. But the new light and medium standards proposed this week would cut more than four times the CO2 emissions that the heavy-duty standards would achieve over the next 30 years.
The “Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium Duty Vehicles” builds on EPA’s existing emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2023-26. The proposal retains the regulatory design of previous EPA standards for light-duty vehicles but leverages advanced clean car technology to further reduce both climate pollution and smog- and soot-forming emissions, according to regulators.
Between 2027 and 2055, the total projected net benefits of the light- and medium-duty proposal range from $850 billion to $1.6 trillion. The proposal is expected to avoid 7.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions through 2055, equivalent to eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the entire current U.S. transportation sector for four years. This, according to EPA, would deliver significant health benefits by reducing fine particulate matter that can cause premature death, heart attacks, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, aggravated asthma, and decreased lung function. EPA analysis shows that severe health impacts related to particulate matter exposure will also be reduced—including lung disorders (including cancer), heart disease, and premature mortality.
EPA’s proposal considers a broad suite of available emission control technologies. The standards are designed to allow manufacturers to meet the performance-based standards that work best for their vehicle fleets. EPA projects that for the industry as a whole, the standards are expected to drive widespread use of filters to reduce gasoline particulate matter emissions and spur greater deployment of CO2-reducing technologies for gasoline-powered vehicles.
New proposed air quality standards
“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” Michael S. Regan, the EPA administrator, said.
The new standards reflect the Biden administration’s environmental pushes since taking office over two years ago. The EPA said the regulations would “avoid nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to more than twice the total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2022, while saving thousands of dollars over the lives of the vehicles meeting these new standards and reduce America’s reliance on approximately 20 billion barrels of oil imports.”
While OEMs have increased the production and availability of battery-electric trucks over the past two years, charging infrastructure for heavy-duty EVs is lacking. Consumer EV sales have tripled in the past year, according to the White House, which said there are now more than 130,000 public chargers across the U.S.—40% more than there were in 2020.
The private sector has also committed more than $120 billion in domestic EV and battery investments since the Inflation Reduction Act became law. The new proposed emissions standards for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles for model year 2027 and beyond “would significantly reduce climate and other harmful air pollution, unlocking significant benefits for public health, especially in communities that have borne the greatest burden of poor air quality,” according to the EPA. “At the same time, the proposed standards would lower maintenance costs and deliver significant fuel savings for drivers and truck operators.”
How this could change the U.S.
The EPA also shared some potential statistics based on what it anticipates the new rules would achieve for air quality, fuel costs, maintenance, and oil imports:
Through 2055, EPA projects that the proposed standards would avoid nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions (equivalent to more than twice the total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2022).
The proposed standards would reduce other harmful air pollution and lead to fewer premature deaths and severe health effects such as hospital admissions due to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, according to EPA.
By accelerating the adoption of technologies that reduce fuel and maintenance costs alongside pollution, the proposed standards would save the average consumer $12,000 over the lifetime of a light-duty vehicle, as compared to a vehicle that was not subject to the new standards.
Together, the proposals would reduce oil imports by approximately 20 billion barrels.
Overall, EPA estimates that the benefits of the proposed standards would exceed costs by at least $1 trillion.